The most striking feature of the Scottish crossbill is its crossed mandibles when its bill is closed. Males have russet plumage with dark brown wings and tail, and white on the underneath of the body. Females are similar but have yellow-green plumage, with more pronounced markings, where the males are russet.
A partly nomadic bird, Scottish crossbills move to different woods in different years. Mating takes place in coniferous woodlands, predominantly pine, and this is also where the birds spend the winter.
The Scottish crossbill is intermediate in size between Common and Parrot crossbills, measuring roughly 16cm in length with a wingspan of 29cm.
Protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. UK Species of Conservation Concern, included in Annex I of the European Community’s Birds Directive, and the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
When to see
January – December
Once thought to be a subspecies of the Common crossbill, it is now suggested that the Scottish crossbill is a species in its own right. This would make it Scotland’s only endemic bird. This discovery was made after it was found that both the Common and Scottish crossbill nested in the same woods, yet did not interbreed. In addition, the Scottish crossbill is thought to have a different bill size and call.